SEO And The CFO: Tips To Improve Your Relationship

Historically, the tension between chief financial officers (CFOs) and marketing heads has often resulted from misalignment around long-term vs. short-term goals.

While CFOs are required to submit quarterly financial reports to shareholders, marketers are more often fixed on long-term objectives, such as brand value – which can be abstract.

Thankfully, the role of the CFO has evolved over the past few years, as most CFOs are no longer business hall monitors concerned with cost-cutting and oversight.

Rather, many CFOs now actively participate in organizational growth strategies designed to counteract losses in any economic environment.

Ideally, this shared goal should naturally align with many marketers’ objectives and create synergy down the road.

However, many organizations struggle to create proper symmetry between C-suite executives and keep data in silos.

What’s more, I’ve dealt with many CFOs in the past who simply didn’t understand the merits of SEO and how it differed from traditional marketing.

Unfortunately, for many agencies, this has caused their fair share of frustration when renewing clients and getting proper budget allocation for projects.

Therefore, educating CFOs and SEO pros about each other’s roles and processes is important to break the disconnect that prevents them from aligning around the same business goals and objectives.

The Importance Of CFO And SEO Alignment

According to a study by Deloitte, at least 73% of organizations that report C-suite alignment around marketing performance metrics received positive revenue growth in the past year.

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The data shows that clear CFO and marketing alignment around goals, key performance indicators (KPIs), and language leads to greater business growth.

As CFOs begin to prioritize long-term growth over cost-cutting, this creates an opportunity for SEO pros to educate them about their goals and strategies and plead their cases for higher budget allocation.

With this in mind, we need to identify obstacles that inhibit this natural pairing and explore ways to overcome these pitfalls for better symmetry.

How To Improve The Relationship Between SEO And CFO

Create A Shared Language

As SEO pros, we understand that marketing offers better long-term stability to any organization over short-term, one-time sales.

However, qualitatively communicating brand value and loyalty to a CFO is like explaining how your favorite football team will win the Super Bowl next year.

Without real numbers or a shared understanding of marketing performance metrics and terminology, CFOs cannot comprehend the SEO team’s objectives.

Further, it can be impossible for SEO pros to translate these strategies into results without tangible financial metrics to present to CFOs.

Ultimately, it’s up to the SEO team to educate CFOs about their strategies and how this benefits their business financially.

Otherwise, CFOs might be reluctant to pour money into campaigns that are abstract in their view.

SEO professionals need to find ways to translate broad metrics from customer acquisition and lead generation into value-based business impact.

For example, assigning values to leads and forecasting their revenue allows CFOs to plan budgets. SEO pros can also assign value to intangible assets like brand equity to better convey their value in terms CFOs understand.

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Another way SEO pros need to educate CFOs is around budget processes.

For example, marketing budgets are often used throughout multiple campaigns, which amortize over time. However, this is not often reflected in profit and loss statements from CFOs.

In this example, SEO pros must clearly outline these considerations to CFOs to avoid budget cuts because of unused or misallocated funds.

Nevertheless, if SEO pros and CFOs want to speak the same language, they must start tracking the same goals and KPIs.

Create Shared Goals

If you truly want to create alignment around shared goals and language, coordinate with your CFO by using the same metrics and KPIs to track performance data.

While marketers are free to get as granular as they wish, ultimately, it’s up to department heads to agree on a few key metrics.

For example, these key metrics can be translated directly into financial terms that create a shared language between SEOs and CFOs:

  • Return on investment (ROI): The overall profit generated from an SEO marketing campaign.
  • Customer lifetime value (CLV): The estimated net profit a customer will contribute throughout its relationship with a company. This roughly tells CFOs the values of a brand’s loyalty.
  • Conversion Rate: The number of people who visit a website and complete a sale. This number estimates the efficiency of a marketing campaign.

However, as CFOs look to extract more insights from data, adding quantitative value to KPIs will also greatly help both teams align on common goals – namely, long-term growth. These KPIs may include market penetration, lead acquisition, and brand exposure.

Connecting The Data

Unfortunately, one of the biggest stumbling blocks for CFOs and SEO pros is that financial officers often don’t view SEOs as the top money-makers in an organization.

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Additionally, many CFOs simply don’t understand how SEO makes money or connects to their long-term goals.

Thankfully, analytics software has made it easier than ever to physically assign a quantitative value to campaigns that prove the marketing team’s value.

For example, by assigning sales to individual marketing campaigns at the top of sales funnels, marketers can show how they physically add value to a business.

Further, to assist with communicating ROI to CFOs, marketers can incorporate dotted line reporting that shares the financial performance of the SEO team directly to the financial team.

Look At Campaigns As A Financial Portfolio

Finally, our focus tends to skew toward changing how CFOs think – not how we act or distribute information.

Since financial experts tend to think in investment terms, why not present marketing campaigns like an investment portfolio?

With this approach, SEO pros can tie individual campaigns to investments in a portfolio and report any profits and losses from each investment directly in a statement to CFOs.

SEO pros would also be wise to illustrate how these investments contribute to long-term financial goals and feed their business.

Again, most of these considerations hinge upon resolving differences in perspectives.

By assigning financial value to individual campaigns and metrics, SEO pros can better align around shared business goals and growth strategies that increase their business.

And by proving the growth potential of the SEO team, they can acquire the necessary budget they need to perform their best and thus make the CFO look good.

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